Stomach acid seems to have a bad reputation lately. And the shelves of the grocery store make it clear that the demand for medications that reduce stomach acid have grown in popularity. We can thank the myths perpetuated by drug companies for leading people to believe that stomach acid is a bad thing!
There have been multiple studies that continue to come out that show Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) – medications that reduce our stomach acid – have nasty side effects.
Stomach acid is actually really good for us, when it remains in our stomach.
Why Stomach Acid Is Good
Stomach acid (aka Hydrochloric acid or HCL) kills pathogens, parasites, bacteria, etc. in the food you eat and begins the process of breaking down nutrients so that we can absorb and utilize nutrients from our food.
What happens when you don’t have enough?
- Fats, carbohydrates, and proteins cannot break down properly for the body to utilize them. The food then sits in your gut and ferments, which leads to digestive symptoms like excess gas, bloating, and indigestion (sounds similar to the reason most people take medications to REDUCE stomach acid, doesn’t it?)
- Undigested protein can then make its way to the intestines, irritate the villi in the lining of the mucosa, leading to leaky gut. A leaky gut allows particles to pass through the gut directly into the bloodstream which overwhelms the immune system.
- Undigested food heads to the large intestine and can degenerate and weaken the colon, disrupt our gut bacteria, and cause inflammation, IBS and colitis.
- Increased susceptibility to pathogens (meaning increased risk of food poisoning, travelers diarrhea, and parasites)
- Acne and Rosacea: Low stomach acid means nutrient deficiencies – especially in key nutrients that benefit our skin like zinc. Low stomach acid sets the stage for bacterial and fungal overgrowths like SIBO and Candida which are triggers for skin conditions.
- The body can’t absorb or utilize the nutrients from your food such as vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, iron, zinc, magnesium, calcium, etc.
How can you reverse low stomach acid?
- Slow down and reduce stress. Eating when you are relaxed is important because your body will be in the parasympathetic state, also known as “rest and digest” mode. In this state, the body releases the correct amount of stomach acid, enzymes, etc. that are needed to digest your food.
- Adjust your diet. Eating foods that don’t agree with you creates intra-abdominal pressure. The result can be lower esophageal sphincter dysfunction, which allows stomach contents to reflux back into the esophagus.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Take 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar mixed with a little bit of water before each meal.
- Digestive Bitters: Take 1 dropper full before and after each meal.
- HCL with Pepsin: You may consider taking HCL with Pepsin at each meal (I would not recommend this if you have a history of stomach ulcers). When taking this, I recommend working with a professional to advise you on the right dosage for you.
While coming off of PPIs, I will have clients take DGL – which soothes the mucous membrane of the GI tract – along with other dietary measures.
Note: Please consult with your practitioner if you are pregnant or nursing before trying any of these tips.
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In great health,